Tsunami and Civil War in Sri_Lanka

An Anthropologist Confronts the Real World

by Dennis McGilvray, ‘India Review,’ New Delhi, , vol. 5, nos. 3–4, July/October, 2006, pp. 372–393


…Much of the anthropology of Sri Lanka in the last three decades
would have to count as “public” scholarship, because it has been
forced to address the contemporary realities of labor migration, religious
politics, the global economy, and the rise of violent ethno-nationalist
movements. As a long-term observer of the Tamil-speaking Hindu
and Muslim communities in Sri Lanka’s eastern coastal region, I have
always been attracted to the classic anthropological issues of caste,
popular religion, and matrilineal kinship. However, in the wake of the
civil wars for Tamil Eelam and the 2004 tsunami disaster, I have been
forced to confront (somewhat uneasily) a fundamentally altered fieldwork situation.
This gives my current work a stronger flavor of public anthropology, while providing an opportunity for me to trace older
matrilocal family patterns and Hindu-Muslim religious traditions
under radically changed conditions.

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